Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Isfahan or Eşfahān (historically also rendered as Ispahan, Old Persian Aspadana, Middle Persian Spahān, Farsi اصفهان), located about 340 km south of Tehran, is the capital of Isfahan Province and Iran's third largest city (after Tehran and Mashhad). Its population in 2000 was 2,540,000.
Isfahan has been designated by UNESCO as a world heritage city. It contains a wide variety of Islamic Architectural sites ranging from the 11th century to the 19th.
The city is geographically located at 51 degree 29 minutes eastern longitute and 32 degree 38 minutes northern latitude, in the lush Zayandeh-Rud plain, at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range. The city enjoys a temperate climate and regular seasons. No obstacle exists as far as 90 km north of Isfahan and cool northern winds blow from this direction. Isfahan is located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing Iran. It is situated at 1590 meters above sea level. It receives an average of 355 mm of rain per year, making it similar to Denver, Colorado in terms of altitude and precipitation. The temperature ranges between 2-28 Celsius.
The southern and western approaches of Isfahan are mountainous and it is bordered northward and eastward by fertile plains. Thus, Isfahan's climate is varied and occasionally rainy, with a precipitation average varying between 100 and 150 mm.
Isfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world. It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safavid dynasty, when it was the capital of Persia. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. This led to the proverb Esfahān nesf-e jahan: "Esfahan is half the world".
Of all Iranian cities, Isfahan is perhaps the most popular with tourists.
The Arabs conquered Isfahan in 642 and introduced Islam. Under their rule, the city was promoted to provincial capital. The Islamic philosopher Avicenna lived and taught there in the 11th century. In 1051, Isfahan was conquered by the Seljuk Turks under Toghril Beg, who kept it as his capital. The city flourished under Seljuk rule until about 1200. In 1387, the city was conquered in a bloody war with Tamerlane.
The Golden Age of Isfahan came in the 17th century under Shah Abbas I, who made it the capital of the Safavid dynasty. Many of the magnificent buildings in the city date to this time. One century later, in 1722, it was conquered by the Afghans after a long siege, which left much of the city in ruin. Although the Afghans were a primary cause of Isfahan's decline, this can also be attributed to the development of maritime commerce by European merchants from such countries such as the Netherlands. Isfahan's wealth originated in its role as a chief waystation along the trans-Asia trade route, but trade dwindled as the cheaper sea routes increased in popularity for transporting commodities between Asia and Europe. It was only in the 20th century under Shah Reza Pahlavi that the city was finally revived.
Isfahan is also where Arthur Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman are buried.
Architecture of Isfahan
The architecture of Isfahan is made up of eight traditional forms which taken together form the foundation in the same way that music was once based on a finite number of notes. These are modulated by the use of colors and textures to leaven the surfaces and are held together in an overall construction akin to that of a sonata in which connection leads to culmination through a transition space. To appreciate the skill of the architects and designers fully, it is necessary to have an appreciation of these fundamental concepts i.e. garden, platform, porch, gateway, dome, arched chamber, and minaret, although in the geometry and architecture of the buildings they are woven together to present a seamless whole.
A full discussion of the underlying principles can be found in the paper entitled "The Alchemy of the Mosque", given to a joint meeting of the School of Architecture and the Islamic Society of the University of Manchester in 1997.
In any case, some of the most famous landmarks of Isfahan are:
- Naqsh-e Jahan Square
- Pol-e Shahrestān (The Shahrestan Bridge) - 11th Century.
- Si-o-Seh Pol (The Bridge of 33 Arches) - 1602.
- Ali Qapu (The Royal Palace) - Early 17th Century
- Chehel Sotun (The Palace of forty columns) - 1647.
- Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge) - 1650.
- Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf) - 1650.
- Hasht Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) - 1669.
- Vank Cathedral - 17th century.
- Atashgāh - a Zoroastrian fire temple.
- Buqe'h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna's Dome) - 12th Century.
- The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah - 12th & 18th Century.
- Chahar Bagh Boulevard - 1596.
- Meidan-e-Shah Square - 1602.
- Jolfa (The Armenian Quarter).
- The Bathhouse of Sheikh Bahai.
- Pigeon Towers - 17th Century.
- Meidan-e-Enghelab (Revolution Square).
Art of Isfahan
See page on Isfahani Rugs.
Today Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, and handicrafts. Isfahan also has nuclear experimental reactors as well as facilities for producing nuclear fuel (UCF). Isfahan has one of the largest steel producing facilities in the entire region, as well as facilities for producing special alloys.
The cities of Najaf-abad, Khaneh Isfahan, Khomeini-shahr, Shahin-shahr, Zarrin-shahr, and Fulad-e Mobarakeh all constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan. The city has an international airport and is in the final stages of constructing its first Metro line. Isfahan is also home to the popular Iranian Premiership football (soccer) team Sepahan.
Over 2000 companies are working in the area using Isfahan's economic, cultural, and social potentials. Isfahan contains a major oil refinery and a large airforce base. HESA, Iran's most advanced aircraft manufacturing plant (where the AN-140 aircraft is made), is located nearby.
Universities of Isfahan
Aside from the seminaries and religious schools, the major universities of the Isfahan metropolitan area are:
- Isfahan University of Medical Sciences
- Isfahan University of Technology
- University of Isfahan
- Isfahan University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences
- Islamic Azad University of Isfahan
- Islamic Azad University of Khomeinishahr
- Islamic Azad University of Mobarakeh
- Islamic Azad University of Najaf Abad
Isfahan University of Technology ranks among the top 5 universities of Iran.
- Reza Abouei, Urban Planning of Isfahan in the Seventeenth Century, Sheffield, 2004, article available on planum.net
-  Many pictures of Isfahan from Iranchamber.com
- Iranian Architecture
- Isfahan Cultural Heritage Organization
- Watch "Isfahan the Movie" on QuickTime Player
- Isfahan photos, attractions, hotels
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